Three Poems



Mirage drinking 



It is true there is only 

so much water you can

drink—but you can 

drink fantasy liquid



There is more than one way

to drink in a chimera

with her red-desert hair 

thrown to the wind, 

her body piled 

onto mesas of sand. 


Your body is not cast 

iron like that man

standing on the corner 

in Winslow, Arizona, 

forever contemplating 

the seven women 

of the Eagles’ song. 


The eighth woman, 

redemption, is nowhere 

to be seen (at least not 

at McDonalds—to find her 

a man has to do more

than come to her 



And after all, your body

is no empty glass

even on dry desert days:

heroic as your thirst might be,

you are no match for the drinker

in the African tale who 

swallowed up a lake 

to rescue a woman

whose lover secreted her 

under its waters.


To redeem a woman

that way, you’d have 

to drink more than

sugared Dr. Pepper--

you’d have to go beyond 

taking in water in the desert.


You’d have to drink 

a whole mirage dry.










I can’t tell you what the raven

says to her mate in the nest: 

I have only seen her fly, 

speaking to the wind—

while I eavesdrop. 


If I claim 

to follow the sap 

up some great tree,

don’t listen:

I am not the rain 

she answers to. 


There is a singular 

language in which

bark and water

speak to one another 

and I do not

own it. 


If I bring you a bell

that rings in the wind  

remember it stops

when the wind stops. 


There is mere gossip 

on my side of the

continental divide--

though that does not stop me

from trying to seduce you 

across the line.


If you hitch a ride with me,

I must tell you the truth: 

I only pretend to write 

about the universe.


What I am really writing about 

is my own heart.







The Land Takes My Picture 



I turn toward the land 

to see myself with eyes 

of shade and water, muscle borne 

on the shoulders 

of the hills,


fleshy soil stretching 

over magma like my own skin

stretches over the fossil gossip 

in my bones, the lava

of my heart,


with its luna-moon rising 

over a covey of leaf and bough--

and one wild tree 


whose fruit wishes me well—

would always love me 


if I let it. 






Folklorist Madronna Holden’s retirement from university teaching has given her the opportunity to concentrate on her poetry. In the last two years, over forty of her poems have appeared in Equinox Poetry and Prose, The Cold Mountain Review, About Place, Leaping Clear, WindfallClackamas Literary ReviewSlippery Elm Literary Journal, and many others. Previously, she won the Pacifica Prize for poetry two times, and the community production of her poetry drama, The Descent of Inanna, was the subject of a special aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting.


David Wolfersberger and his paintings are summer friends, sometimes seen walking the land as they feel and remember it and want it to be again, before fences, where people live and care for the earth and each other. Watercolors he painted on his 3500-mile solo bicycle tour of the West Coast have appeared or are forthcoming in conjunction with Madronna Holden’s poems in Cold Mountain Review, About Place, Leaping Clear, Slippery Elm Literary Review, Santa Clara Review, and elsewhere.


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